Christian comics compete for reality show

Leland Klassen is known as one of Canada's premier clean comedians. His 20-city cross-country comedy tournament is the largest Christian comedy tour in Canada. It's also a reality television show.

Now Klassen is crossing the country looking for new and aspiring Canadian Christian comics for the show's second season throughout April and May to take part in The Comedy Tournament. As a reality show, it can be seen on Laughopolis TV and CTS.

Raised in the heart of Canada, Klassen graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a degree in anthropology. Although he started off performing comedy in clubs and bars, Klassen made the choice to do clean stand-up comedy right from the start.

“People always ask if it's hard to stay clean. It shouldn't be hard to stay clean. If it was hard, I'd have to check my heart and find out what's going on," says Klassen.

Klassen is known for being not just a clean comic, but a church-clean comic. Klassen says comedy is very cultural and performing for a church crowd is a cultural shift that many comics aren't aware of.

“You do lose that shock humour stuff. It's an explosive laugh," says Klassen. Doing clean humour means a shift in thinking, writing and a general approach to the art of stand-up comedy. “You take out the dirty and you realize the jokes aren't that funny. You just sprinkled some shock value in. That's when it's harder to be clean. The writing just has to be better."

Klassen still performs in bars and headline comedy clubs, and has appeared at Montreal's Just For Laughs festival three times. “They know I'm the Christian comedian and I'm going to be clean," he says. “As long as I make people laugh they don't care. In the stand-up comedy world, there's a handful of people who are clean and then there's Leland - he's super-clean, and that allows me to do comedy in churches too."

Klassen created the Comedy Tournament to find and nurture the talents of other comics trying to get started in Canada, a mentoring opportunity he lacked. He enjoys visiting churches across Canada, making people laugh and sharing the gospel.

He admits the first season of the reality television program was a bit much, “having a camera follow my every move and record every fault. It got to be painful quite honestly, but I think we got a great little show from it."

The Comedy Tournament offers three levels of comedic value. Klassen is the veteran comic and performs his unique brand of stand-up; other comics have been on the comedy tour before and have a little more experience and it also features brand new comics. All are competing for a spot on the Comedy Tournament and a chance to be crowned Comedy Tournament Champion.

“I'm looking for 12 comics across the country to compete in the Comedy Tournament TV series," says Klassen. “Everybody's welcome to audition and get some stage time."

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